Columbia County school system officials are reexamining their policies for handling disciplinary appeals after the controversy over a student punished for bringing a hunting rifle on campus.
School board members emerged from nearly two hours behind closed doors at a called meeting Wednesday morning and directed Superintendent Charles Nagle to see whether changes are needed for hearings and appeals.
Changes might only be better educating school officials and the public about how appeals are supposed to be handled, Nagle said. Hearings generally are held when students are suspended out of school for more than 10 days.
"It's a legal hearing, but it's not a court of law," Nagle said.
The board recently voted to uphold the suspension of an Evans High School student after bringing a rifle on campus. Nagle said the hearing in that case included character witnesses, which should not have been allowed.
The system also likely will revise the way it notifies parents after appeals to the board are heard, Nagle said. Currently, the board votes on the appeal behind closed doors, and no public action on the vote takes place. Parents are told the results of the appeal later.
In other action Wednesday, the board unanimously approved hiring Stallings Island Middle School Assistant Principal Tom Smallwood as the new principal of Grovetown Middle School.
Smallwood will be the permanent replacement for Carolyn Fries, who retired abruptly in September. Grovetown High School Principal Penny Jackson, who has been serving as interim principal at Grovetown Middle, will remain at Grovetown Middle for a brief transitional period and then move to the central office to coordinate the completion and opening of Grovetown High, said Deputy Superintendent Sandra Carraway.
Nagle said "eight or nine" applicants sought the position, and three finalists interviewed with the Grovetown Middle school council. "It was without a doubt that they were pretty unified on one particular candidate," Nagle said.
"He's always been strong in his convictions, standing up for the right thing," Nagle said of Smallwood. "I'm impressed with how much he has grown as an educator."
Smallwood started teaching 1988 at Clarke Central High School in Athens. He later served at Westside High School in Augusta before coming to Columbia County as a teacher and band director at Riverside Middle in 1992. He then became band director when Greenbrier High School opened in 1996 and returned in 2006 to Riverside Middle as assistant principal.
"I am just so exited about the opportunity to go to Grovetown Middle School," Smallwood said. "It's hard to hide my excitement."
Smallwood's wife, Katie Smallwood, is a teacher and coach at Greenbrier High School.
The search for Smallwood's replacement at Stallings Island will begin immediately, school officials said.
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